Today I brewed what I hope turns out to be a Belgian honey witbier. This brew was a little more complicated to plan because instead of a single step mash and single batch sparge, there's a mash-out step which required an additional quantity of water at a different temperature from the sparge water.
This is a thick mash, and some of the HBT online advice included the addition of a pound of rice hulls, which add little to the actual recipe from a sugar point of view but act as a "leavening" agent for the mash, to keep it from getting stuck in the sparge. I got the rice hulls when I ordered the grain, and I dutifully added a pound to the grain bill as I was weighing out. Here's a picture of the grain bill - it is larger in volume than the Geordie Ale because the rice hulls are not very dense.
I had my batch sheet printed out and was following along when it occurred to me that the rice hulls, while not adding any fermentables to the batch, would certainly soak up some of the water. By not allowing for that in the calculations I was going to end up short on water. That would be bad on two fronts: the water absorbed by the rice hulls wouldn't be available for the wort, which means I would be short on both volume and efficiency - my batch would be too small, and it wouldn't have enough sugars in it to hit the gravity I am looking for.
I ran back upstairs and entered the rice hulls into the BOM in Beer Smith and it calculated a new water size. Luckily I still had time to add the water before the mash started. The adjustments came in all three volumes - mash in, mash out, and sparge. Even after adjusting, though, I had to add additional water (at least a gallon!) to get the pre-boil volume up to what Beer Smith had predicted. Lesson learned for next time, I guess.
Here's a shot of the wort as I'm executing the 'vorlauf' - taking the initial runnings from the mash tun and returning them to the tun in order to settle the grain bed so that it is a better filter. The idea is that you continue to vorlauf until the wort is running clear of particulates. It's getting to that point in this picture, but I wanted to show off the nice light color I was seeing.
While I was heating the boil to, uh, boiling, I had to prepare the non-grain ingredients. A Belgian witbier requires coriander seed and bitter orange peel, and Biermuncher recommended that they be hydrated ahead of being added to the boil. Here's a picture of the bitter orange peel and coriander (after I crushed it with Amy's kitchen chopper) in a water infusion that I microwaved to just before it boiled.
The honey I'm using is from a batch we got from my brother-in-law Pete. It's local (well, local to Dahlonega, Georgia) honey harvested by his uncle Clem. I weighed out a pound of it from what we had left and added it to the boil with about 15 minutes left. The bitter orange peel and coriander went in with 5 minutes to go.
I had a bad boilover after the hops addition. I think I salvaged most of the hop material from where it stuck to the lid and the sides but if this batch doesn't have a lot of hop influence I'll know why.
And here's the finished wort, after I pitched the yeast and right before it went into the fermenter. It looks a little dark in this picture but I think that's a lighting issue with this one-lung camera I'm using. It's much closer to the 4.0 SRM color that Beer Smith predicted.